Any week now, the Supreme Court could decide just who owns half the land in Oklahoma.
The internationally-recognized Supreme Court case, Carpenter v. Murphy, in which Patrick Dwayne Murphy, a Creek man convicted of murder and sentenced to death, has challenged the jurisdictional rights of the state of Oklahoma and Native tribes. The case, which has spurred tremendous controversy, poses the question of who exactly owns land in Oklahoma.
The amount of land at stake? 19 million acres.
In response, Crooked Media and Cherokee Nation host Rebecca Nagle have worked to create and launch a narrative documentary-style podcast titled This Land, which will be premiering June 3rd.
On the Crooked Media podcast announcement page, Nagle—a two-spirit/queer woman an award-winning advocate and writer focused on advancing Native rights and ending violence against Native women—tells an unflinching and tragic account of her and her family’s experiences as members of the Cherokee Nation, one of the tribes that will be affected by the Supreme Court decision.
My name is Rebecca Nagle. I am a citizen of Cherokee Nation, a Native American tribe in Oklahoma. I have a story to share with you—one I’m confident most of you haven’t heard before.
It begins in an unusual place: on the side of a rural, dirt road, nearly two decades ago. It was there, that a man named Patrick Murphy murdered his fellow Muskogee Creek Nation citizen, George Jacobs. Murphy was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death by the state of Oklahoma. But in his appeal, Murphy’s legal team argued the crime happened on a reservation. And because only tribes and the Federal government can prosecute crimes on Indian land, Oklahoma didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the case.
Nagle then reveals a tragic event in her own family history.
On June 22, 1839, my great-great-great grandfather John Ridge was pulled from his bed, dragged into his front yard, and stabbed 26 times. His assassins stomped his chest until it caved in. They did it because John Ridge had signed Cherokee Nation’s removal treaty, a document that promised our tribe uninterrupted sovereignty over a quarter of the land in what is present-day Oklahoma. That promise was not kept.
“This Land is an incredible story that spans generations of my family and will delve deep into how one unique murder case could have a profound impact on the rights of five tribes in Oklahoma, including mine,” said Nagle. “With this groundbreaking podcast, Crooked is one of the only mainstream media outlets producing Native stories right now. I’m thrilled to collaborate with Crooked Media to share it with audiences.”
“This is not a story you're likely to hear because there are too few people who can tell it,” said Crooked Media’s Chief Content Officer Tanya Somanader in the release. “Rebecca has spent her life trying to share the history of her tribe and others, and what happened to the land that belongs to them. But such truths are so often marginalized or ignored by the very people who need to hear them most. That's why we at Crooked are so proud to have collaborated with Rebecca to share her perspective, and her connection to this story, in a meaningful way. As Americans, it's our history too and as This Land will show, there will be larger political consequences if we fail to hear it now, ”
Crooked Media describes the podcast as follows:
‘This Land,’ a documentary-style show revolving around two seemingly unrelated Oklahoma murders that occurred over 150 years apart. Over the course of the seven-episode run, journalist and Cherokee Nation citizen, Rebecca Nagle will take the audience through an in-depth look at a murder case once believed to be “open and shut” that prompted a high-stakes investigation into who legally owns half the land in Oklahoma.
‘This Land’ explores Native American rights and tribal sovereignty through Nagle’s lens as a Native woman with a surprising personal connection to the story’s characters. Having fought for years to ensure her family’s legacy remains an integral part of the American narrative, Nagle gives an insider’s look into the devastating impact of government land allotments on Native people. In addition to examining the history of land rights, ‘This Land’ will—in real time—explore the potential impact of the Carpenter v. Murphy case currently before the Supreme Court and as the final decision is handed down in June. Oral arguments for the case to determine the territorial boundaries of the Creek Nation within eastern Oklahoma began in November of 2018.
Nagle, who was named one of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s Native American 40 Under 40 in 2016 for her work to support Native American survivors of rape and abuse, told Indian Country Today additional reasons for wanting to host the podcast.
“I wanted to tell this story because when I turn on the TV or scroll through my news feed or turn on the radio, I don't hear our stories. Although this case touches five tribes and half the land in Oklahoma—like most Native stories—the mainstream media has barely covered it. If we want the powerful decision-makers of this country to uphold Native rights, we need the people of this country to be paying attention.”
Crooked Media and Nagle note that it was important to partner with a Native crew, engineers and filmmakers on the production including FireThief Productions. Individuals working on the production included Chickasaw Classical Composer, Jerod 'Impichchaachaaha’ Tate and Cherokee artist, Keli Gonzales.
“A powerful team of Native people helped make this podcast happen,” said Nagle. “The series brings the voices of our families, our tribal leaders, our first language speakers, and our experts to a mainstream audience. Its a story told by Native people on our own terms.”
This Land debuts Monday, June 3 and new episodes will drop each week. Crooked Media says additional episodes will delve into matters such as the “Trump Administration involvement, the larger right-wing attack on tribal sovereignty, and how one unique case could result in the largest restoration of tribal land in US history.”
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling